(CNN) — An elusive spider related to the tarantula has just joined the ranks of recognized arachnids.
The Pine Rockland trap spider lives in the Florida Everglades and is very rare. It has only been seen a handful of times since the 1920s, and only recently has the clever arachnid got its name from the habitat it lives in, according to Rebecca Godwin, an assistant professor of biology at the University of Piedmont.
These spiders likely only live in South Florida’s rocky pine habitat, which is “highly threatened,” Godwin told CNN. Their homeland of pine trees growing on limestone outcrops has been slowly destroyed by humanity.
‘Development, urbanization, land clearing, anything that destroys the topsoil could wipe out entire populations, and especially for a spider that is found in such a small range of truly threatened habitat, there is a risk of lose all species, “said Godwin.
The spider is one of 33 new species from America to be added to the genus Ummidia, which are trap spiders. Godwin and Jason E. Bond, a professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, were co-authors of the study, published in April in the journal ZooKeys.
“The fact that a new species like this can be found in an endangered patch of forest in the middle of the city underscores the importance of preserving these ecosystems before we lose not only what we know, but also what we still have. remains to be discovered, ”Frank Ridgley, manager of Zoo Miami Veterinary and Conservation Services, said in a news release.
Finding and collecting enough of the spider has been difficult.
A keeper checking reptile research traps at Zoo Miami took a photo of the large-bodied spider in 2012 and two years later, another was found. The mysterious spider does not match any recorded species, the zoo said in a news release.
The zoo sent the data to Godwin, who has been studying trap spiders for nearly a decade. The previous displays he had from the museums were from the 1920s and 1950s, he said.
“It was very exciting for me,” Godwin said. Even with only one or two specimens, I was pretty sure it was a new species.
It is the characteristics of male trap spiders that help identify the species, he said. The Pine Rockland trap spider is black and is between one and 3.8 centimeters wide, including the legs. Males have an opalescent abdomen, he said.
“If one could call spiders beautiful, it seems to me a very beautiful looking spider,” said Godwin.
Females of this species have not yet been found, Godwin said. Other females in the trapdoor spider group often have a front that looks like patent leather, he added.
Trap spiders are related to tarantulas. They are typically smaller, less hairy, their fangs point in a different direction, and they share some physical characteristics with their tarantula cousins, Godwin said.
Although large spiders can scare people, Godwin said these trapdoor spiders won’t come looking for you. Spiders live in such a small area and burrow into the ground, living in it for most of their lives. Some female spiders in this group can live up to more than 20 years.
While they are poisonous – most spiders are – the venom of the Pine Rockland trap spider is “not medically important,” Godwin said. Translation: The poison is not dangerous for humans.
Research on the venom could yield interesting applications for humans, according to Ridgley.
“Venoms from related species have been found to contain compounds with potential use as pain relievers and cancer treatments,” Ridgley said.
When Godwin talks about his work with spiders, he says that he usually hears how many spiders a person has crushed that week.
“I feel like working with spiders, you spend a lot of your time fighting bad press,” Godwin said. “It is an uphill battle to point out that these are agencies that help, if at all. They do not carry any disease to transmit to humans, they are not aggressive and they literally live underground.
Trapdoor spiders are known to create a door to their burrow and stay underground, Godwin said. They stick their legs out and grab small insects that scamper without ever having to leave their bunker. When in danger, they close the woven silk door and ward off intruders.
The Pine Rockland trap spider and other “unknown diversity” is what fascinates Godwin most about our planet. He wants to continue studying spiders like this one, which live in “endangered” habitat, before it gets lost, he said.
“I am continually impressed by how little we know about what lives on the planet with us,” Godwin said. “There are so many species that are being lost, going extinct before we knew they ever existed.”